A hand appeared over the lip of the cliff and, searching for a firm handhold,
the white powder that covered them leaving a record of passed over grips. It
finally settled on one, shortly thereafter a head joined it. Sweat pouring off its
brow, the sandy brown hair plastered firmly to its scalp; it was filled with tension
and concentration. A few more seconds passed, then a second hand sprang up,
and the body levered itself over the edge and lay panting in it's effort.
       "Good job sir, excellent." The voice was midrange with a trace of nasal and
California drawl.
       "Shut up Yun, and get me a towel."
       Baxter Whitehall Bennett rolled his lean frame away from the edge, and
brushed himself off as he rose to his full height, a full head taller than his
associate Yungstead Dawes. The smaller man was busy tapping away on his
laptop and looking fearfully at surroundings.
       "Are you sure this is a good idea sir. I mean, I know Morocco was a success,
but this? There's nothing here. We're gonna have to pipe in sunlight. And what
about the conservationists?"
       "Don't worry Yun, it's going to be glorious, you'll see." Baxter grabbed a
towel from the bag next to Yun and methodically began wiping himself down until
he was completely dry. Yun made sure to focus in tightly on his computer screen
while Baxter neatened up some private areas. He only looked up again when
Baxter stepped to edge of the cliff and looked out.
       Baxter could already see it in his mind. The green veldt would be cut back,
and the foundation built up, the whole area flattened, then a sculpted landscape
surrounding an apron of concrete. On the apron spaced an equal distance from
the center would be four thirty-story spires.  Set in the middle, another sculpted
landscape with custom villas mixed in among the plants. And the centerpiece, a
man made lake with an island mall in the center. He had already begun re-
spacing out the fountains and picking out colors for the lobbies when he forced
himself to stop.
       "Sir, "Yungstead chimed in, this stylish glasses glinting in the sun, " We've
got to go, it's almost noon and the chopper should be at the pickup point in thirty
       Baxter held up his finger for silence, for a moment savoring his vision, then
turned and smiled at Yun. He felt it rising in him again, and knew it was good.
Three weeks since jungle

       Baxter stood at the head of the table and quietly counted up all the money
looking back at him from over their customary glasses of water. By his estimate
he figured one and half, maybe one point seven billion, give or take a few million.
He liked to keep these first round meetings small, and so the number around the
table was twelve. Along with some institutional investors, he had some new
private money that he had hoped to bring under his spell.
         The meeting was going to be brief, but he'd already made them wait for
ten minutes although he hadn't needed it, and so some of the private money was
beginning to get restless. He smiled to placate them, afforded a silent nod to a
few familiar fund managers.
       Off to his left, Yun checked his watch and sighed.
       "Gentleman, " Baxter's practiced tone brought a hush over the of the all-
male table, " allow me to introduce you to my latest concept in new living, I give
you... La Junglei."
       Yun tapped on the remote he'd held ready for the past five minutes, and the
room darkened as the panels in front of the windows turned to shade out the
sun. From speakers all around the room the low jungle tones slithered across the
floor, and special emitters filled the air with appropriate jungle scents.
       A screen slid from it's recessed space in the ceiling, as did the matching
projector near the glassed in doors, and the presentation started. Baxter had
already watched the computer-generated jungle roll beneath him and settle on
the plain, so he stepped over to the corner and stood next to Yun.
       "How long is this thing again?" He spoke in low tones, trying not to distract
from the english tones in the voiceover. Yun looked at him and indicated 10
       On the screen, the clearing of the jungle, building of infrastructure,
construction of service buildings and initial construction flashed by. The
animation had been finished that morning, and some of the transition cuts
weren't completely smooth. The mall took shape, then the outer buildings, and
then the lake was excavated and filled and so on. As each milestone in the
construction was pointed out by the voiceover, Baxter and Yun intently watched
the investors for the signs of interest they needed.
       As the presentation came to close, the walk through of the villas fading as
the room returned to regular light, Baxter resumed his position at the head of the
table. He had carefully made sure that no mention of figures was included in the
presentation, and now was time for the numbers. The starting numbers in reality,
but numbers nonetheless.
       Yun appeared with a thin folder. Inside were a rack of stills of the animation,
a single sheet of numbers with deadlines highlighted and a CD-ROM diskette,
containing a baffling 1,847 pages of graphs, legalese, maps, diagrams,
projections and other data.         
       "Gentlemen, what you have before you the opportunity to create something.
Something glorious, that will last the ages, that will stand in men's dreams, and
more importantly, turn a regular profit." He grinned here at his own little joke, and
looked around the table for answering grins. Not all were smiling, but the
important ones were nodding. "What were are looking at here is basically an
investment opportunity, one that promises a cash flow to exceed it's startup costs
inside of two years, with the long term ROI two percent above average, in a
stable country prepared to hand out incentives for brining jobs to the region."
       "This it?" the voice was from the back of the room. Baxter almost ignored it.
       "Is what it, sir? A billion dollar development deal not big enough for your
interest? I do apologize." Baxter sounded as sincere as he could as he started to
recount the table.
       "Not the deal, I mean this." The man held up the folder and waggled it. " Is
this it? ONE sheet of paper, some pictures and record to listen to on the way
       "That sir is a data diskette." Yun interjected, " And it has all the data you
might require to make an informed decision."
       "Look Michaels, it's an interest meeting, if you aren't interested, fine." This
came from one of the other investors.
       Baxter smiled down the table at Mr. Michaels, and softened his gaze.
       "Mr. Michaels, if you have any questions that need to be answered that are
not covered on the CD, then please, have my secretary make an appointment
and I'll be more than happy to answer your questions."
       Yun had to stifle his laugh, as to date no one had made it all the way
through the information to the other side, but had simply waited for the regularly
revised numbers. Mr. Dawes quickly offered a departing drink to men at the table
and ended the meeting, before his boss could carry on his threat.

Six  weeks since jungle

       Yungstead hung up his phone and slowly crossed another name off his list.
He took a deep breath, made the appropriate change to his spreadsheet and
watched as the program adjusted the figures throughout the lengthy document.
He sniffed at the changes, then printed it and put together his folder to go see
the boss.
       Leaving his crowded desk area, as this level had no walls and he shared
the space with twenty other people, he passed the soda machine, and made his
way over to the service elevator for the ride up forty stories to the main offices.
Baxter had once tried to move these actual working offices completely out of the
building to save money, but then had balked at the idea of waiting for 'his people'
to arrive.
       On the 'show' floor, Yun appeared from behind ornate wooden doors and
wound his way through the facade. At these six ultramodern desks, models and
actors toiled at whatever it was they did all day, generally looking impressive and
to clients when they observed them 'hard at work'. They had been Yun's idea
after an incident during an important conference, when the news of new
ecological concerns at a site was broadcast in full volume stereo profanity, with
subtitles. The whole working office had been moved downstairs the next week.
       Yun skirted them and ended up in front of Ms. Junos, the senior personal
secretary of Mr. Bennett.
       "Yun Dawes to see Mr. Bennett," Yun started the script in his head.
       Ms. Junos peered over the top of her horn rimmed glasses at him for a
moment, then leaned over from her computer and went through her schedule,
carefully mouthing out each appointment. She went through this pantomime
twice, then returned to her typing.
       "You don't have an appointment, how may I help you." The tone of Ms.
Juno's voice made it not a question, but a statement.
       "Mr. Bennett will want to see me, he's expecting me. I have some numbers
that he needs."
       Ms. Junos peered at him again, then finally turned from her computer, and
repeated the schedule examination. She looked up at the clock on the wall, the
placing her finger on a time slot, looked up at Mr. Dawes and then asked how
long his impromptu meeting would last.
       Rather than shrug as he wished, which incensed Ms. Junos to the point he'd
have to start the entire sequence over again, he stated five minutes. At his reply,
Ms. Junos made a notation on the page, then tapped out the number and began
speaking into her headset phone. Yun smiled at one of the junior secretaries,
then snapped to attention when the senior secretary looked up.
       "You have four minutes, Mr. Bennett has a meeting with the bank in thirty
minutes and still has some preparation to do."
       Yun nodded a thank you, and passed through the brushed steel doors into
the center of Bennett's empire. Unlike the cramped confines of the working floor,
Baxter's office seemed to ramble on with two conference tables, one glassed in,
a oaken block on which sat Baxter's custom desk, a bar, art pieces and models
of past projects, and leather couches all looking out on a view of the city, and
behind it the bay.  Baxter was sprawled on one of the couches, eating an energy
bar and reviewing a folder  of answers to possible questions the bankers might
throw at him.
       "Mr. Bennett, we've lost another one sir." Yun spoke without preamble or
       Baxter paused in mid-bite, then slowly closed the folder and looked up Yun.
He stood up, seemed surprised to find his mouth full, and so started walking
around the room munching and looking concerned. He stopped at one of the
encased models and looked over it, thoughtfully chewing and studying it for a
moment. He finally swallowed and  looked at Yun, then turned and looked at the
       "How close to the bottom are we?"
       "If Mr. Meyer or Talbot drops out, we're dead, even with the Funds behind
us." Yun didn't even consult his notes.
       "I see." The two men equaled roughly a $40 million dollar commitment, and
the without them was point where the project  entered the second round of
funding looking more like a gamble than an investment. Baxter quickly added
mentally. In speculative construction, under funding meant no confidence, and a
lack of confidence triggered bad speculation, which translated into pessimism,
which would place the project into the 'pipe dreams' file.
       "I'm thinking we need to get the remaining invest....." Yun started, but Baxter
cut him off.
       "Who is it? Who is killing the dream Yun? What is his name?"
       "Michaels, sir. It's Mr. Michaels. He's been doing some outside
       "I see. Well Yun, then we'll have to take care of him. What is his problem?
Why doesn't he just take his little bit of money somewhere else?"
       Mr. Michaels little bit of money was roughly $15 million, and Yun quietly
made a note of that. "We could bring a few new faces, we do have time, Mr.
       "No, it's the starting line-up or nothing. This project was hype when we
created it, we go back into the second round sketchy the new people will look at
the numbers twice as hard. And Yun, I've looked at those startup numbers
enough to know they do not bear up under long term examination."
       "So what do we do?" Yun almost knew the next words out of Baxter's mouth.
He'd said them twice a year every year since Yungstead Dawes had accepted
the job fresh out of college.
       "In this case, I will make a few calls, and it will be handled."

Seven  weeks since the jungle

       Harold Michaels had made his money, and felt the occasionally pressing
need to make certain it didn't go to waste. He owned a yacht that he had set foot
twice in three years, a garage full of cars some of whom had sat so long their
batteries had died, and an art collection that would welcome in any home if he
ever uncrated it.
       His lunch today, consisted of an eggplant casserole with low fat cheese and
fresh cut carrots courtesy of his new trophy wife and so he sat at the coffee table
in his office muddling through it and the departmental expense projections for the
next quarter. With each mouthful, he was becoming more and more inclined to
slip down to the steak house in the lobby and get a porterhouse.        
       "Mr. Michaels, your ...appointment is here." Mrs. Timber had been with Mr.
Michaels since he started with a warehouse he'd bought out of a foreclosure
sale, and his office had been the space behind some file cabinets he couldn't get
to open. His offices now were behind a set of Chinese screens (again, the new
wife) but the pair still shunned the intercom in most circumstances.
       Michaels puzzled for a second, looked at his watch and then shrugged. He'd
thought the policy meeting wasn't until after lunch but he could start it now. He
considered dumping his lunch, changed his mind and called out to Mrs. Timber
to send them. For being early, he thought, they could watch him eat.
       The first man to cross from behind the screens let Michaels know
immediately this wasn't a policy meeting. Or at least not the kind he was
expecting. The man was of normal height, but massive, nearly as wide as he was
tall. He was wearing an obviously tailored suit, italian shoes, and a tie that made
Michaels want to ask where he shopped. He stepped gingerly, and took in the
whole room, then instead of finding a chair, slid his bulk into a corner.
       So taken with the first man, he was startled to find another, smaller man now
sitting directly in front of him.
       "So, Mr. Harold Jacob Michaels, age forty six, Republican, how is your lovely
new wife, Candi ?"
       Michaels nearly dropped his fork, and sat taking in his new visitor. This
smaller man, also impeccably dressed with hair that gleamed, looked tanned. He
could see himself in the shine on the man's shoe, and watched raptly as the man
produced a large black pen, which he proceeded to toy with.
       "My wife's name is Darla." he heard himself say.
       "Your new wife's stage name was Candi Delight, so much more inviting that
Darla Floss, but I can understand why she might want to distance herself from
       Michaels finally caught himself. He'd dealt with men like this over the years,
he knew the types. He started munching again.
       "What can I do for you....gentleman?" He asked, after washing down his
mouthful with some of the spring tea his wife had sent with the eggplant.
       "We share a mutual interest, a commonality if you will."         
       The sat looking at one another, Michaels waiting for the man to finish his
statement, the man apparently taking great interest in the shape of Michaels
face. No one spoke for a minute, the only sound that of Mrs. Timber fielding calls
and typing.
       "And this mutual interest would be?" Michaels finally asked, figuring he was
already at the disadvantage.
       "Mr. Michaels, my people, we do business around the world. We like to turn
a profit. As a matter of fact, our future projections show that profits will be good.
Or rather did show that profits will good. It seems that one of our projects, a
rather large project as a matter of fact, is in jeopardy. And in looking for a reason
as to why this is happening, keep coming back to the same thing. " With his black
pen, the man punctuated the sentence with a lazy jab in the direction the
       "What is it you sell, just out of curiosity, because I'm still not sure." Michaels
started after he'd digested this argument.
       "Jacob, how silly of me. Ours is a lovely product. Used around the world, in
all countries. We have little problem finding buyers. We sell concrete. Lots and
lots of concrete. "
       Harold sat on the couch and munched for a bit. He picked through his
eggplant, and thought about the appropriate question to ask at this time. Only
his late mother had ever referred to him as Jacob, and he was more than a little
uncomfortable with its usage.
       "But I don't deal in, or buy, or, so how do I fit in?"
       "Don't be crude, Jacob. I'm certain if you think hard, it will come to you."
       "I mean, what can I do to rectify this situation? Do you have any
suggestions?" Michaels looked at him, waiting for the next piece of the puzzle to
be played. These types always had a 'suggestion' that would make everyone's
lives 'easier'.
       "Really now, who would I be to tell you how to run your company," the man
in the chair looked genuinely surprised at the prospect," this is all yours, I'm
certain you can come up with something that will make all parties, ah, satisfied."
       The smaller man shot out his french cuffs after he made the statement, and
checked the jewel-encrusted watch on his arm. He muttered something in what
Michaels thought was Spanish, and stood up to leave.
       "Oh no, don't get up. We are pressed for time so I'll leave you to think about
what needs to be done. Don't worry, we'll be in Touch." He said it capitalized, in a
tone Michaels hadn't heard since he was five. The pair exited as they entered,
the large man first, the smaller man behind.
       Michaels sat there, munching his eggplant until he felt confident they'd
cleared the floor, then leapt to his feet and dashed over to his desk. Somebody,
somewhere was going to try to play hardball with him. Even as he dialed the
phone, yelling for Mrs. Timber to come and clean up the spilled tea while he
waited for them to answer, he knew he would have to bring out his big guns.  
Eight weeks since the jungle

       William 'Willy" Peck sat in Baxter's office and stared out past the breakers,
taking great care to avoid ever matching the gaze of Mr. Kingsley, who ambled
around the room supposedly taking in the miniatures, but constantly looking over
at the younger man and scowling.
       Although the two men appeared polar opposites, Kingsley's slate gray suit
concealing a paunch and Willy's pullover shirtsleeves and loafers, the two men
could not have been more alike. Both chose their clients based on portfolio
strength, had an attention to detail and impeccable records, and both maintained
a table at the local power meeting place of the minute ( although Willy's was on
the terrace and Kingsley's was in a private room in the back ).
       Neither man broke his post when Baxter strode in, junior secretary in tow,
asking her for some innocuous report that he's suddenly discovered as
interesting. Dressed in shirtsleeves himself, he nonetheless looked a Willy Peck
with disdain for not dressing for the occasion, and nodded at his own attorney
and dismissed his secretary.
       "Gentleman, it is Wednesday after lunch. Mr. Kingsley you are doubtlessly
aware that I have a round of golf scheduled every week at this time, and since
you have asked that I miss it, I am going to assume this the end of the world as
we know it. It has been very lovely being alive with you both."
       "Hey fellas, I don't like to be here on a Wednesday afternoon, either. Hell, if
somebody sees me they might think I work for a living. But this is serious
bidness." Willy Peck drawled.
       "Mr. Peck is alluding to a potential situation with our latest project, La
Junglei." Kingsley chimed in from the far side of the room. He reached into his
jacket and extracted pair half-lens glasses, then moved back over to the couch
area and eased down, before consulting the notes he had arrayed on the coffee
       "A client of Mr. Peck's is proposing to file an injunction, something frivolous
no doubt, which he believes will damage the reputation of the project, making
continued investment an unwise financial decision." Kingsley said all this with his
head buried in a note, looking up only when he'd finished.
       "Bennie, this whole thing is holding together now on spit, bailing wire and
your good looks. An injunction to halt all the operations on this baby and you still
out looking for investors? Well, let's just say them damn monkeys won't be
worried bout trespassers no time soon."
       Baxter who had been wandering aimlessly about the office froze. He turned
to face the two men his smile painted on, and nodded to both of them once
again. He quietly moved over to his desk, slid into the high back leather chair
and picked up a pencil from the group sitting on in there ivory cup next to his
phone. He slid his memo pad over, and then pencil poised, looked at Willy and
through almost gritted teeth seemed to ooze the words, "So what do they want?"
       "Mr. Peck's client, "Mr. Kingsley chimed in , his notes up again," are
requesting that the initial landscaping and infrastructure suppliers be re-bid at
this time, citing a lack of explanation of bid approval procedure in your project
       "Bennie, it's still early. Hell, we could start this right after D-Day, at this
stage we shouldn't even have to move any actual start dates, or nothing."
       Baxter nodded at Willy, then ducked his head for a few moments and
scribbled furiously on his memo pad. His head popped back up after few seconds
and Kingsley continued.
       "They are also requesting an outside auditor to go over the books at each
project phase completion, as outlined in the project overview."
       "Just somebody everybody can get along with. You know how it is boys,
some people know the accounting firm too lone and bang, they're washing the
dirty laundry for you. Not that anybody's accusing anybody of anything. In fact we
think this move will look good to you in the long run. Show your new investors
you boys are about bidness."
       Baxter nodded to Willy again, and repeated the scribbling routine.
       "There is also a request for some involvement in the advertising and
marketing arm, as well as position on the long term strategy team for the project"
       "Now Bennie, don't get all uppity about this one, I know how it sounds, but
they ain't looking to run it, or even have final say, but they do want a voice.
Something meaningful though, or let them appoint someone."
       Baxter scribbled some more then popped his head up, his eyes a lidded
glaze, his face frozen in a smile. "Is there anything else?"
       "Some minor sundry items..." Kingsley started, but Willy cut him off.
       "Nothing to get jumped up about, we don't want to get into planning out
villas and all that, but my clients missus favors an eggshell blue. Look fellas, you
know how this plays out, we gonna wrestle around all that, and we'll figure
something out that makes 'erebody happy. You got till, noon-ish tomorrow, I gotta
see the judge at one."
       "The presiding officer?" Kingsley asked, his pen now poised over the low
coffee table to take notes. Baxter eyebrows jumped just a hair at his voice.
       "Rudy Cavito, you know him."
       Kingsely put his pen down without writing anything and leaned back on his
chair, clasping his hands across his well concealed paunch. Baxter's face fell for
an instant, then bounced back into his false smile.
       "Look fellas," Willy continued, " I'm really doing ya'll a favor. My client
originally wanted jes spring it on you. It was my idea to try and work with you.
Why don't ya'll go over the numbers, call who you need call and ring me up when
you got a counter-offer. A real counter-offer. I think I get my client to give it a look
       "We'll call you in the morning. Keep your schedule open." Kingsley said
quietly, his gaze now finding the shoreline and beyond.
       "Ain't got nothing planned till eleven thirty. I got one meeting I can get out of
and then lunch and the judge. You know where to find me." Willy jumped up of
his seat, and stood looking around the room for second. Then turned and
headed for the door.
       "Oh, and Willy, "Baxter finally spoke as the attorney reached the door, "
thanks for coming by."
       Willy Peck gave the pair a half grin, and then sidled out the door. Baxter
stood up, and holding the memo pad in his hand, circled around to the models
and began looking at them. He slid his hand over a few of the glass cases and
then rested on one and slapped the memo pad down onto it.
       "Judge Cavito will be inclined to extend the injunction for inquiry purposes,
that's our problem. Unless we can approach the hearing with the matter resolved,
he's going to scrutinize this." Kingsley stated, as he gathered together his notes.
       "The environmentalists and the human rights people are gonna be kicking
up a enough sand without stopping the project. Damnit man! Who's killing this?"
Baxter asked his eyes glued to his model.
       "Mr. Peck represents four investors of our original group, all of whom are
still committed. The injunction will not name its source until the hearing. However
by that time, the damage to project may not be recoupable."
       "Review the information with Yun, see if we can accommodate these
requests without wrecking this thing on the other end. Have something in my
hands by nine. "
       Mr. Kingsley rolled off the couch, and checked his folder again to make sure
he had all his notes, although none remained on the table. He made a curt nod
to Baxter, then trundled out the steel doors.
       Baxter stood for a moment, looking back and forth between the model and
his notepad, before he finally tore the top sheet off, crumbled it into a ball and
through it at the window. It bounced off harmlessly, and he spent several minutes
picking it up and bouncing it off other items in the office in a fit of rage.
       After he lost it under his desk, he took a few moments and calmed himself,
then crossed the room and made himself a drink. Moments later he notified Ms.
Junos that he was headed down to the corner cafe to get a latte, she made a
note of it and knowing her boss, immediately checked his schedule for the next
few days to push back all but the most vital of activities.
       A little later the speculator strolled through the lobby and out of the building,
walked up two blocks and got into the considerable line at Moontime Coffee Bar.
He shuffled up, bought one of the magazines and creamy latte (soy milk) then
took a table in the back of the crowded space. Three minutes later one of the
girls cleaning up slid her celluar phone onto the table and picked up the fifty that
was folded under the corner of the magazine in a motion Baxter knew they must
practice after closing up.
       As soon as she was gone, Baxter picked up the phone and in the room
crowded by mundance conversations, made a call.  

       H.J. Michaels climbed out from behind the steering wheel of his car, one
which he still drove into work himself every morning, and took a deep breath. It
had been a long day, and he figured on a light meal, maybe a little time on couch
and into bed before eleven. He  walked slipped into the utility door, taking little
interest in long black limo in front of the house across the wide subdivision street.
He dropped his keys in the little wicker basket (again his new bride) took of his
shoes on the mat ( new wife ), padded into kitchen and retrieved a Lite Beer,
then made his way into the living room where he promptly dropped it onto the
new carpet.
       "Ah, Jacob, we were wondering when you would make it." The little man
placed his drink down on one of the shell coasters, and smiled at him, beckoning
him closer.
       "Harold, you should have told me you had plans, you know I need time to
plan things. But a trip to the Caribbean is just what I need!" Darla looked up from
the brochures that she and another young woman had spread over the floor.
       H.J. shot a look at the small man, and started to storm forward when he saw
the massive man step from behind the bar on the far side of the room, a huge
pistol low by his side. His face filled with fear, but Darla was engrossed in the
photographs and didn't notice, and the smaller man smiled at him, then popped
up and motioned for Harold to follow him over to the bar.
       They stood there at the bar looking at each other for a moment, and the
smaller man placed his drink on the bar and the large man began to mix him a
fresh one. Harold looked him in the eye, and tried to figure his edge.
       "Jacob, " he finally spoke, his teeth a brilliant white," I am so disappointed.  I
thought I could trust you. As it is, I see I am going to have to take matters into my
own hands. In about three minutes, your private line in your office is going to
ring. It will be your attorney, Mr. Peck. He will be calling to let you know about you
injunction. Don't look surprised. I have the benefits of knowing the goings on at
Mr. Pecks firm, and we found it very upsetting that you were trying to cut us out.
Jacob I thought we were friends."
       "Look I don't know who you are, but you're not going to get away with..."
Harold started in a gruff whisper, but the little man cut him off.
       "Getaway? Whatever do you mean sir? We are simply your traveling
companions. You've decided to take a little trip. You are about to call off the
injunction and take a spontaneous vacation for oh, about five days. At your wife's
insistence. We are here to simply to make sure you enjoy your journey."
       Darla squealed in the middle of the room and all the men's heads jerked in
her direction. She and the other girl giggled together and then they looked over
at the men, who they noticed were suddenly watching them.
       "What?" She looked guilty for a moment, and Harold shot his eyebrows.
       "Oh, I've got to pack, I don't know what I am going to bring," Darla suddenly
gasped, and she bounced to her feet and looked shocked for minute.
       " Pack light, Darla, Harold and I are going to take you ladies shopping the
moment you get there. Brand new everything, so let's get hopping," the little man
stated smoothly. Darla repeated the squeal, and the two women disappeared
down the hall to the master bedroom.
       The men stood there is silence and the massive man finally replaced the
Lite Beer that Harold had left lying at the entrance to the kitchen. Harold tried to
size up his options. He could refuse to cancel the injunction; but he wasn't sure
what steps they would take in retribution. He could go along with them, but he
was sure they would be leaving the country within hours, and his windows to
restart the injunction would be infrequent and unpredictable. A moment here, a
few seconds there. Or he could fight them. The big man looked a little bored,
waiting, and Harold fantasized a straight punch pole axing him, leaving the small
man would who would be no problem.  
       The phone in his private office rang, breaking in on the part of dream where
he was dodging bullets, and in his mind Harold made his decision.
       They trooped in, Harold in the middle of the trio, and the small motioned for
him to answer the phone. Harold sat at his desk, scooped up the phone to
answer and looked up into the barrel of the weapon the huge man had flashed
       "Yes," his voice more a sound than the word, as he noticed that the inside
the barrel had little grooves as opposed to being smooth as he had always
       "Harry, it's me Willy. Been talking to the them boys over a Bennie's and got
few things they can work on. Now it ain't everything, but it's a start, I think you
need to look at it."
       The small man looked at Harold from the seat he taken, and smiled wanly.
       "Well, Willy, " croaked Harold, "I've been thinking."
       "You okay there son? You sound terrible."
       The silence of the room made the tinny voice from the receiver loud enough
for all to hear, and Harold knew that both of the other men could hear the
conversation. He looked past the barrel up the wrist of the big man, and
committed himself, and plunged onward.
       "I'm fine. It's no deals, all or nothing." he had to push the words out of his
throat. He flinched, waiting for the impact. He heard his attorney squawk into his
ear, and felt the smooth grain of the wood beneath the fingers of his left hand.
He remembered the first girl he'd ever loved, the moment his father had
announced his parents’ divorce, and the taste of first steak he'd ever eaten.
       He opened his eyes. The big man was still there, only now he was seated,
straining the limits of the furniture, and the gun was nowhere to be seen. The
phone was in the cradle, and he could feel wetness on his face. The big man
grinned at him, then rose from the chair, patted him playfully on the top the head
and then turned and left him sitting there.
       "Honey come on, the limo is waiting," Darla called to him and he paused a
little confused, and walked to door and saw the two ladies in the street headed
for the waiting car. He wanted to call out, but he saw them safely get into the car
and after a minute, Darla popped up out of the sunroof and waved him over.
       He started then, stopped at the threshold, realizing he hadn't seen either of
the two men in a few minutes. Darla finally tired of the hold up, climbed back out
the car and made her way back across the yard.
       "Come on, Harold," and he recognized that tone in her voice that she was
going to have her way, " we have a plane to catch. Now." He protested lightly
then allowed himself to be dragged to car. Michaels wasn't sure if he was dead or
alive, but he knew he was his own man, and he was going to live life on his own
Court Day

       Baxter spent the morning waiting for the phone to ring. Yun was calling
Peck's office every twenty minutes with a new spiel, and Kingsley had called
twice, claiming he thought he could block the injunction. Baxter had insisted each
time that he would prefer if the item never existed, and Kingsley had said he
would work on it and hung up.
       He was now regretting not getting a larger overage in his initial investment
group, and listened as the buzz he molded over the previous weeks began
developing nicely. He talked to select brokers between fielding his associates’
calls, and listened as they threw pitches. Baxter relished these small market
affairs, and rollercoastered between the euphoria of the deal and desolation of
knowing the injunction was out there. It was almost eleven when he heard it the
first time that question about a potential problem and he ended the call. He got a
bigger blurb than he was looking for, along with a semi-favorable note, on one of
the cable financial network shows.
       It was all going exactly as planned, or it would be until the news of the
injunction was released. The money would dry up, and Baxter wasn’t yet
prepared to let the potential profit walk away. He didn't even count the already
liberally applied "grease" that there was no hope of ever seeing again.  
       “Ms. Junos, I think I’m gonna run down and get me a latte.”

       Willy closed his eyes and let the taste of fresh salmon, grilled perfectly float
in his mouth. Ernesto had out done himself today, and the country lawyer leaned
back satisfied, reaching to grab the sweetened ice tea he preferred at mid-day.
       “William Percy Astor Peck, age thirty eight. Attorney at law. Let me get that
for you.”
       Willy opened his eyes slowly, the breath he’d been letting out gone. Across
from him sat a impeccably dressed man, with a ruddy complexion and hair that
gleamed in the sun. He held in his left hand Willy’s drink, and wore what the wily
lawyer thought of as a shit-eating grin.
       “Look buddy, “ Willy plucked his offered glass and sipped it calmly, “This
heyah table is occupied. So why don’t  I get Frank to get you your own table
inside. “
       “I’m sorry, didn’t Mr. Michaels tell you? We’re having lunch today. A very
nice long lunch.“  Waiters appeared and re-set the other three places at the
table swiftly as the two men measured each other. Peck could tell this guy was no
regular operator, and glanced at the clock in the distance.
       “Hey, this about that Jungle crap? Cause if you trying to stall I can re-
schedule that thang. This heyah is just stupid.”
       “Willy, what are you talking about? We’re having lunch, relax.” Two women
joined them at that moment and before he could stop himself , the lawyer turned
on his natural charm and introduced himself, with a laugh and quick touch of
their arms. The food appeared moments later to Willy’s surprise and everyone
dug in.
       “Scuse me ladies, I gotta make a call.” Willy started to stand.
       “Willy, no phones at lunch, that’s just rude.” The smooth man seated at the
table with the roast chicken shot a glance that the lawyer followed over to the far
side of the terrace. A iceberg of man was shifting his seat, and Willy gulped
visibly then sat back down.
       “Willy-kins you seem nervous relax, nothing’s going to happen.” The
blonder of the ladies cooed and turned her attention back to her own meal.
       Willy picked up his fork, shrugged and dug back into his salmon. He shot a
wink at the man at the end of the table and leaned into one of the girls
whispering something that made her laugh. The judge would just have to take an

       Mrs. Timber sat back down, frustrated. The damn fender bender had kept
her out of the office for nearly three hours. She thanked god that Mr. Micheals
was out for the rest of the week.

Five months into construction

       Yun let the foreman go, confident that his intense language course had let
him breach the barrier of communication. The two men had shook hands and the
junior exec watched the man start calling together his team to go over the
changes. He tabbed another item off his mental list and turned to head back over
to the trailer complex.
       He paused at the fresh blast of air conditioning savoring the feeling after
the burning heat. As he made his way down the hall, glanced into an office
seeing a mountain of a man studying out one of the many blueprints. Yun smiled
at the dapper man next to him, his ruddy complexion nearly equal to the at of the
outside workers, although the junior executive had never seen him outside. He
walked past his secretary, a particularly curvy girl who's father owned one of the
local lumber concessions, and eased behind his large cluttered desk. He relaxed
for a moment in the leather then called out, "Celia, I need Mr. Bennett on the

       "Yun, how's it going?" Baxter grinned to the room as his young assistant
came onto the speaker phone.
       "Two full weeks ahead of schedule, we even got a break on some of the
fees from Aeroship. I'll fax it up today."
       "Thanks, Yun." He looked up from the Y-shaped phone at the men standing
awaiting any information. A few held drinks in their hands, a few others with open
folders they were studying.
       "What about that damn forest fire? It was on CNN." One of the men asked.
       "A controlled burn blown out of proportion by extreme environmentalists. I
can have someone down there next week to inspect and tell you that we did the
jungle a favor with that little bit we did." Baxter smiled at the man. The investor
       "Yun, I'm in the middle of meeting right now, I'll call you back in about a half
hour." Without waiting for a reply, he clicked off the phone and turned his
attentions back to his group. Answering questions deftly, and pointing out figures
and projections, Baxter was the picture of cool. That brief phone call from the site
had been enough to quell any fears that tightened these guts made of money.
The developer knew at this point it was nearly over, and that he'd already
transferred the building capital outside the reach of the American judicial system
just in case.
       A little less concerned now, the drinks and the talk turned to sports and
social pursuits. Baxter had stepped away from his group to freshen up his drink
and get back to explaining why the soft schedule would get the local team into
the playoffs when a name caught his ear.
       "Heard anything about Micheals lately?" one of a small group of three asked
the other two conspiratorially.
       "Stopped listening months ago, damn shame though." Another commented.
       "Baxter? You heard anything?" The first man caught Baxter paying attention
to their conversation. His drink topped off he sidled over to the group and
lowered his voice.
       "Only that he still hasn't gotten out yet." Baxter offered.
       "Peck still hasn't gotten him out?" This came from the third man with more
than a hint of disbelief.
       "Not Peck. Peck dumped him months ago. When they froze his assets." The
second man informed him.
       "I didn't know that. I know when they found that mob stuff on his computers
they were thinking about it..." the third man said.
       "It was mob stuff?" The first man cut him off. "I didn't hear mob stuff."
       "You don't play golf with the attorney general." The third man bragged.
       "Either way," Baxter cut in, "him getting arrested overseas on drug charges
the same day didn't help."
       "Okay that was just stupid. I wish I could say something else but that was
just stupid." someone piped in.
       "He must have been the unluckiest sumbitch in the world. His company gets
busted for stock fraud the same day he gets arrested on drug charges in front of
two reporters from the Miami Herald a rinky dink hell hole in islands. It's gotta be
some kinda record." the speaker chuckled and wandered off to freshen his own
       "Didn't his wife divorce him?" one of the two remaining asked Baxter and his
gossip partner.
       "And do what, do back to dancing? She can't get half of nothing. It's federal
case, no divorce court is going to get those assets released any time soon,
provided the stockholders don't milk him dry." The other man nudged Baxter at
the reference; another couple of men joined the group.
       "I say he was setup." A newcomer piped in, "his books were clean the month
before. We were all set to get him some financing lined up for deal he was
working in Kansas. Everything looked good to our audit team."
       "They found it on his secretaries’ computer and in the accounting system
files. Who could have set him up? Duplicate set of books, one good one and one
bad one." The original speaker theorized.
       "Damn shame," said Baxter, "he was a nice guy too."